Krakow – Płaszów Concentration Camp

There’s not much left of Płaszów concentration camp now, although it remains today almost in the same state as the Soviets found it in when they entered the city in January 1945. Many visitors to Krakow travel some distance to Auschwitz Birkenau when they visit the city, but this camp is located within walking distance of Krakow city centre.

I’ve been to this site before in 2016, although it was pouring with rain when I got there and so I didn’t spend as much time as I’d wanted. Since my last visit a number of large information boards have been placed around the site and these have made it easier to interpret what remains.

The Germans led most of the camp’s occupants on a death march to concentration camps in mid-1944, although the last prisoners left in early January 1945. Panicked by what the Soviets might find the Nazis quickly destroyed as much evidence as they could in the time they had, meaning that the Soviets found just empty fields.

I think the two photos above are taken from around the same place.

The scale of the camp.

Halina Nelken was born in Krakow in September 1943 and spent time at Płaszów, Auschwitz and Ravensbrück concentration camps amongst numerous others. She, somehow, managed to survive the war and wrote an account of her time in the camps.

An overhead plan of the site.

There were no gas chambers at the camp but a large number of inmates died due to illness and many were also summarily executed. Many people were killed and buried nearby, but the Nazis had to quickly exhume and burn the bodies in January 1945 before they fled.

The remains of the funeral building used by the Jews for preparing bodies before burial.

This is the headstone of Sarah Schenirer, a Krakow lady who established a network of schools. Her original burial stone was destroyed when the Nazis wrecked the cemetery, but this replacement was added to the site in 2005.

This is the grey house which was originally the administrative office for the Jewish cemetery, which the Germans destroyed when they built the camp. It was from here that the infamous camp commandant Amon Goeth fired shots from his balcony at Jewish prisoners. The house was fitted out with cells and there are plans to turn the property into a museum.

The site as it is now, which is primarily a nature reserve. There’s something quite raw about visiting such a barren site, but personally I think that a proper museum and even more signs around the site would be useful to help visitors interpret the camp.